It is very natural that as a person gets older, the body starts to degenerate and becomes – old! The body is undergoing a lot of changes at the same time that it starts to crumble under the immense pressure of performing as it used to in younger days.
It is also very common for elderly people to get issues with bones, joints, and discs. A condition called degenerative disc disease has become very common among the older generation.
This disease starts showing its symptoms and causes different issues at different stages. Now the question is what are the stages of degenerative disc disease? We have enlisted them in detail below. Have a read.
What are the stages of degenerative disc disease?
There are four stages of degenerative disc disease and each stage has its own signs and symptoms. The first two stages can be prevented by taking care of the posture and joints whereas the third and fourth stages are the ones where it becomes excruciatingly painful and the damage done to the discs is, unfortunately, irreversible.
The degenerative disc disease can affect a person severely. Even now the cure is available but only if the disease is identified at an earlier stage. In the later stages when the pain has become unbearable, it is almost impossible to cure as the degeneration of the discs usually starts from the neck and goes all the way to the lower back.
The four stages are:
- Stage 1- Significant change occurs in the spinal curve
- Stage 2- Mild pain along with a change in the posture
- Stage 3- Never damage, zero mobility, and constant pain
- Stage 4- Severe excruciating pain, loss of spinal discs completely, and irreversible damage to the spine
Let’s have a closer look at these stages.
The first stages of degenerative disc disease are usually painless and also go unnoticed by the person. The changes in the curvature of the spine begin in this stage but as it is painless, the person would not be alerted at all.
Stage 1 is also considered the stage where the spine starts losing its natural curve and this is only identified when a person visits a physician or a chiropractor.
As the natural curve of the spine begins to alter its shape, the discs start experiencing an exerting amount of pressure, causing slight discomfort to the person.
Stage one of degenerative disc disease might increase the risk of a bulging disc or a hernia.
For the majority of people, the second stage is the one where a person starts experiencing mild pain in the back. The pain’s intensity can be anywhere between discomfort or throbbing pain too occasionally.
By this stage, the curvature of the spine has started to become more prominent as because of the extra pressure the spinal discs have started to degenerate at a rapid speed.
A person suffering from stage 2 of degenerative disc disease might also start feeling lethargic all the time as this stage often causes a lack of strength and energy.
This is the stage where the changing curvature of the spinal discs starts becoming noticeable. The change in the posture and the back becomes more prominent as compared to the earlier stages. The person starts witnessing discomfort while walking and the pain becomes constant from time to time.
In this stage, an inside growth in the form of bone spurs begins inside the spine which causes the nerves to compress resulting in constant pain.
The nerve compression will result in limited mobility as it becomes extremely difficult for the person to walk or even do their day-to-day chores.
The person suffering from the third stage of degenerative disc disease will feel lethargic all the time. There will be no strength or energy to perform daily tasks and the pain will gradually take over the person’s life.
This is the last stage of disc degenerative disease. Unfortunately, this disease is considered to be irreversible. In rare cases, surgery might help the patient but it is termed to be very risky.
By this stage, the spinal discs are completely degraded and have herniated to the maximum causing awful pressure on the nerves which results in excruciating pain that the person goes through all the time.
This is the stage where the spinal vertebrae might start to fuse into one another which is painful and irreversible. This will limit the mobility of the person completely resulting in him being confined in a room, making him dependent upon others to perform daily tasks.
How fast degenerative disc disease progresses?
The degenerative disc disease may take decades to recede from stage one to stage four. Sometimes it is cured at any intermediate stage if the symptoms are acknowledged at the time.
If a person ignores the signs of disc degenerative disease and lets the discs’ crumble and degrade on their own, then it is expected that the disease will progress at a fast pace.
The speed of the disc degenerative disease progression largely depends upon the person and his acknowledgment of the disease.
The degradation of the spinal discs occurs naturally at the latter stage of life and that is when the progression becomes faster as compared to the younger age.
Is it possible to end up being crippled by disc degenerative disease?
It is possible that you become bed-ridden by this disease at the last stage but paralysis almost never occurs. The intense compression of the nerves may lead to constant pain, lethargy, numbness, weakness, and even loss of control over bladder and bowel movements but it is very rare that this disease makes a person paralyzed for life.
The long-term issues attached with degenerative disc disease are low or zero mobility which is as serious as paralysis. Medical help can ensure a person avoids this stage but at times the discs have been degraded to such a level that mobility becomes next to impossible for the patient.
How to prevent and treat disc degenerative disease?
The treatment and prevention of disc degenerative disease largely depend on the stage of this disease.
One of the main treatments for this disease is to relieve the patient from the pain by using techniques that are non-invasive. Chiropractors and physiotherapists are known to relieve the patient from the excruciating pain they endure because of degenerative discs.
Disc degeneration is a natural process that every human being witnesses at some stage of life. Disc degeneration should not cause pain but if it does, then it means you need to check with a doctor or get professional help from a medical expert.
A physician or a chiropractor will determine at what stage you are and prescribe your cure according to that.
To prevent disc degenerative disease, it is important to take care of the health of the spine and ensure that you lead a healthy life to prevent this painful disease naturally.